Do Turtles Need Sunlight? When and Why Turtles Need Light

Do Turtles Need Sunlight

If you are a first-time turtle owner, you might be concerned with many issues while building its tank. You might want to know the lighting necessity, space required, and basking importance for turtles. And that’s fine as a novice.

In fact, the most common question we come across is. “Do turtles need sunlight?” Yes, sunlight is essential for turtles for basking and warmth. Although many artificial lighting systems will mimic the natural lights of the turtle habitat, allowing the turtle to enjoy natural sunlight is the best thing you can do for the pet.

Also, turtles will need UVA and UVB lighting for warmth and health. Besides, basking is one of the favorite pastimes of turtles, requiring proper lighting, preferably sunlight.

Do Turtles Need Sunlight

Yes, turtles need sunlight not just for one reason only but for many reasons. Whether they live in the wild or in captivity, sunlight is absolutely necessary for them.

1.    Sunlight Is Essential for Basking

Basking is an integral part of turtles’ life whether they are captivated or living in the wild. If you don’t know what basking is, here’s a little insight for you.

Basking refers to turtles sitting in a dry position for a few moments as it leaves the water. Turtles basking may last from a few minutes to a few hours. Generally, they will find elevated spaces such as rocks and tree trunks. But if they find proper sunshine, they can lay flat and start basking literally in any space.

The same goes while they live in turtle tanks or large ponds in captivity. Basking is important for turtles to receive UV rays and keep their skin and shell dry.

Turtles will spend a massive time in the water. So, they become wet. It also means that they need to dry off their shell from time to time. Also, when turtles remain in the water for an extended period, it brings many risks for them. For instance, they will come across different fungi, algae, and bacteria that reside in water. These items are also found in ponds and turtle tanks that you build at home.

Turtles combat the bacteria and fungi by drying off their skin and shell while basking in the sunlight. While manufacturers use different basking lights, allowing them to bask in natural sunlight is the best option. It will also help them improve their mood.

2.    Sunlight Stops Shell Rot

Since turtles will remain almost 60% to 75% of their life in water, it increases the chance of shell rot. It refers to a bacterial or viral attack on the turtle shell which will weaken the shell and eventually cause the turtle’s death.

It happens due to the lack of vitamin D3 in turtles’ bodies. Thus, they will bask in the sunlight for hours to consume vitamin D3 from sunlight. Also, sunlight is essential to maintain different body functions properly. 

Hence, turtles will need to bask for an extended period in a dry spot under direct sunlight to avoid shell rot and live healthily. But sunlight for turtles is necessary for other reasons as well.

3.    Lights Maintain Circadian Rhythm in Turtles

Circadian rhythm is much like a body clock in humans. It determines how long and when the turtle will remain active both day and night time. In the wild, sunlight allows turtles to maintain their circadian rhythm.

When they remain captivation, they will still need sunlight for the same reasons. Turtle owners use different lighting options to mimic the natural sunlight and help turtles maintain their body clock, aka, circadian rhythm, properly.

4.    Light Keeps Turtle Warm

Turtles are reptiles, and so, they are cold-blooded animals. It means they need an external heating source to keep their body warm as they can’t regulate their temperature. Therefore, they remain in sunlight for an extended period to acquire the necessary warmth from the sunlight.

In captivation, they also need proper lighting to protect their body’s warmth. Hence, turtle owners will use different lighting to maintain a standard heat in the tank and around it.

Why Do Turtles Need UVA and UVB Light?

UV-light stands for Ultraviolet light. It is essential for a turtle for different reasons. On top of it, turtles need both UVA and UVB light, especially when they live in tanks.

Although many people suggest that UVA isn’t as important as UVB, this is not true. UVA light comes with different benefits for turtles which include-

  • UVA light is crucial for the mating capacity and breeding of turtles.
  • Turtles’ metabolism is dependent on UVA light. So, it controls turtles’ activity levels too.
  • UVA light will also regulate turtles’ moods largely.
  • Turtles can see through the UVA spectrum. So, without UVA light in their tank, they will not understand their surrounding as they will not find the UVA spectrum and its colors.

Next comes the UVB lighting. It is almost a survival essential for turtles. If they lack UVB lighting around their habitat, they can get sick and may even die. The benefits of installing UVB light in turtles’ tanks are limitless.

First off, UVB light provides turtles with vitamin D3. It is extremely vital for turtles since the lack of vitamin D3 can be deadly for turtles. If a turtle is suffering from vitamin D3 deficiency, it will boost the shell rot in the turtle. On top of it, it limits the natural growth of turtles.  Turtles will even experience bone and shell decay.

Ideally, you should arrange proper lighting for at least 10-12 hours to help the turtle survive and live healthily. If you don’t provide it with enough light, it will face various complications, which may even lead to premature death.

Do Turtles Need Sunlight
Turtles Need Sunlight


sunlight is essential for turtles to survive both in the wild and in captivity. It provides turtles with enough light and heat to regulate their body warmth through basking. When you put turtles inside the room, you have to provide UVA and UVB lighting that mimics its natural lighting.

Do Turtles Need Sunlight? When and Why Turtles Need Light

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